Nujood Ali is a simple girl enjoying her childhood in one of the villages in Yemen. She was not really sure of her real age because in the countryside, people do not bother with officially registering their children. Her mother deduced that she is 10 but she may be either 8 or 9. Like any other girl, Nujood loves to play and wants to go to school. However, her childhood came to an end when her father arranged for her to be married to a man thrice her age. Forced to stop schooling (she was just starting her second year) and uprooted from her family, she was taken by her husband to an isolated village where she experienced abuse – raped by her husband and physically abused by her mother-in-law. When Nujood cannot endure much longer, she escaped and went directly to the courthouse and bravely asked the judge for a divorce. The process was a terrible ordeal for Nujood but she was able to finally obtain her freedom, with the help of local advocates.
The book is an autobiography written by Nujood and translated by Delphine Minoui. She recounts her experiences in a simple and direct manner, which makes one pause and remember that it is indeed a child narrating her story. I find such simplicity and directness heart wrenching for it clearly shows Nujood’s vulnerability and innocence. But what’s more admirable and striking with this slip of a girl is her courage while going through an almost insurmountable task. She had the courage to break free from Yemen’s age-old tradition of early-forced-arranged marriages and to challenge such practice, which is still prevalent until today. Her story and her triumph paved the way for child-brides who are in similar circumstances to fight for their rights and even demand their freedom. Furthermore, she was named a “Glamour Woman of the Year in 2008” alongside Hillary Clinton, Nicole Kidman and Condoleeza Rice.
Reading this book made me remember a book entitled, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which also delves in child-brides and their plight, many of whom are in abusive relationships. Nujood’s story gave a concrete “face” to those countless and faceless girls-women.